Words: Joe Hall | Date:
The Pantani Jersey is a special edition of the Rapha Super-Lightweight Jersey that features design elements based on the life and career of the controversial Italian rider. Here, we speak to Ultan Coyle, the man responsible for the artwork the jersey carries.
The Super-Lightweight fabric is a proprietary polyester made exclusively for Rapha. Breathable, comfortable and light against the skin, it is the ideal fabric for climbing in hot conditions.
“The aim was to create a climbing-specific jersey that drew on different strands of Pantani’s life,” says Coyle, whose other rider-inspired designs have featured on numerous Rapha products. The result is a range of icons and motifs that acknowledge both Pantani’s public image and his personal and family life, and which Coyle has brought together in a highly-detailed design.
“Even today,” says Coyle, “you still see lots of Pantani graffiti on climbs in the Alps, Dolomites and elsewhere. The repeat pattern on the jersey fabric was about paying tribute to the love that clearly remains for him.”
The fabric on the back of the neck also features a tricolour trim in celeste, blue and yellow, a nod to both his famous Bianchi bike and his association with the Tour. “In Italy,” adds Coyle, “he was regarded as the next great Tour champion.”
Of the several different logos on the jersey that pertain to Pantani’s extraordinary career, let’s start with that nickname, Il Pirata.
When Pantani first arrived on the scene, a wreath of receding hair belied his age and it was not until he returned from a career-threatening crash, in 1997, that he we saw the Bic-smooth head, diamond nose-stud and famous bandana. Whether or not this buccaneering look was an intentional ploy to rebrand himself, it instantly created ‘Pantani the pirate’. And it wasn’t just the bandana. He may not have been Errol Flynn but his swashbuckling attacking style contained sufficient maverick spirit and energy to justify the moniker.
“Il Pirata was an obvious choice for the principal logo,” adds Coyle “but the colour and type elsewhere nod towards his team, Mercatone Uno, and the logo-font of his bike manufacturer.”
There are also two crests on the jersey’s chest. On the right, above the Rapha logo, a roundel reads Mamma Piadine/Cesenatico. This refers to the piadina, an Italian flatbread typical of Pantani’s home region of Emilia-Romagna. Tonina Pantani, Marco’s mother, used to run a kiosk in Cesenatico selling them and they were supposedly the rider’s favourite thing to eat. His choices of fillings for his piadina, before and after a training ride, were either sweet coconut and Nutella, or salty sausage and onion.
The left chest also has a sublimated badge, this time reading Angelo della Montagna/ Gaul e Pantani/ Maestro e Allievo: ‘Angel of the Mountains/ Gaul and Pantani/ Master and Student.’ This alludes to the story of Pantani seeking out Charly Gaul, the iconic Luxembourgian climber known as the Angel of the Mountains, and who had become something of a recluse post-career. The two became friends, perhaps because they shared that mercurial fragility apparent in a lot of the sport’s best climbers.
On the back neck is another ‘logo’, this time simply reading Pantani. The type is reminiscent again of the graffiti found celebrating Pantani and as Coyle points out, the drawn-out ‘P’ across the top is common both in Italian typography and roadside graffiti.
The right rear pocket of the jersey has an embroidered patch bearing a graphic of a diamond and reading ‘Montecampione Gioielli’ (‘Montecampione Jewellery’). This is a play on the infamous tale in which Pantani threw away his diamond nosestud at the foot of Monte Campione, the climb on which he dispatched his closest rival, Pavel Tonkov, on his way to victory at the 1998 Giro d’Italia. Pantani went on to a Giro-Tour double that year and shedding unnecessary weight at the foot of a climb became a signal that he was about to unleash his devastating attack.
The final thing Coyle curated for the jersey’s design was a very special story label on the inside pocket – a handwritten note from Tonina Pantani to her son. We won’t reveal what it says here (partly because it’s written in Italian) but it’s a moving and poignant finishing touch to a jersey Rapha are proud to have produced.
A portion of the proceeds from the sales of the jersey will be donated to the Pantani Foundation.